There is no better time than spring to get started on a weight loss program, and it’s finally here! The warmer weather and longer days make it so much easier to get motivated to exercise, and because of the abundance of fresh produce in the market, eating healthier actually sounds kind if appealing. So if you’re starting on a group weight loss challenge, or trying to tackle your weight on your own, there’s no time like today to get started.
Despite the mounds of weight loss information out there (or maybe because of it?), many people don’t know where to begin with a weight loss program. Should you join Weight Watchers, or another organized program? Should you do a special diet like South Beach or Paleo? Do you have to join a gym? Low carb, high protein, how many calories?? My advice is to stop with the information overload, because there is no one size fits all approach. “Diets” might work for a few weeks, but it’s hard to follow a specific diet for very long, and eventually the weight creeps back. Instead, try to learn what will work for you – by following these steps:
Find out how much you really eat. If you’re overweight, it’s because you eat more calories than your body burns. This could be because you have a slower metabolism; you don’t exercise long or smart enough, or just because you eat too much. So step one is to find out how many calories you really eat during an average week. Keep a detailed food journal for one week, and plug everything you eat and drink into a calorie-tracking program like CalorieKing.com, LoseIt.com or MyFitnessPal.com, all of which can be used online, or on a Smartphone. The most important thing is to be completely honest about your portion sizes, weigh, measure, and include every single thing you put into your mouth. Don’t forget the 10 m&ms you grabbed from the candy jar on someone’s desk, the glass of wine you drank while making dinner, or the bag of popcorn you ate while watching television. Tip- don’t try to change your eating habits during this week, it’s better to get an honest picture of what you really eat, so you can learn what changes to make.
Analyze your food journal, and look for foods (or beverages) that are especially high in calories, or places that you could save a few calories. Chances are, if you’re like most of us, you eat a large dinner and snack too much at night. And who knew that Margaritas had that many calories? Circle every food you feel like you could have lived without, or been fine with less, or swapped out with something lower in calories.
Think hard about what you do for exercise. And by exercise, I don’t mean carrying the laundry to the washing machine, or walking through the grocery store. Exercise doesn’t have to be done at the gym, but it does have to get your heart rate up and cause you to break a sweat. If you do nothing- that’s OK, it’s a great time to get started! You’re going to lose weight as soon as you start any type of an exercise program. If you already exercise, you will need to do more, or work “smarter”.
If you’re lacking in the exercise department, set a goal to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Choose some form of exercise that you enjoy, so that you can make it through 30 minutes straight. It’s OK to take 2 days off from structured exercise, as long as you are still physically active on those 2 days – ie working in the garden, walking the kids to/from school, etc.
If you already exercise, you will need to kick it up a notch, because your body is used to what you are doing. You can either work a bit longer, and add an extra 20 minutes, or ideally – work “smarter” by working harder, working different muscle groups, alternating the type of exercise you do. This keeps your body guessing, and allows you to burn more calories during your workouts. Try alternating walking with a few sprints, or alternate your running pace: fast, slow, and then sprints. Walk at a good incline, or try walking backwards or sideways on the treadmill (hold on!) It makes a huge difference.
Implement the 500 Calorie Rule. To start losing weight, you must get rid of 500 calories each day. You can do this by just eating 500 calories less, but ideally, you should to at least 30 minutes of hard exercise, which burns 300 calories, AND, cut 200 calories out of your diet. Go back to your food journal and see what you can cut, or swap, and make sure it adds up to at least 200 calories. You can cut a bit more if you like, but don’t cut too much. It’s easier to start slowly, and add more changes later on.
If you’re having trouble identifying what or where to cut, here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Swap 2 Tbs light cream in your coffee (60 calories) for 3 Tbs whole milk (27 calories). Saves 33 calories
- Swap 1 blueberry muffin (average 400 calories) for 1 whole wheat English muffin with 1 Tbs peanut butter (220 calories). Saves 180 calories.
- Skip 1 slice of cheese on your sandwich at lunch – saves 100 calories
- Swap 6 oz of vanilla Greek yogurt with sliced strawberries (180 calories) for 1 chocolate brownie (225 calories) saves 45 calories.
- Eat 1/2 cup less rice (108 calories) and ½ cup more carrots (25 calories) at dinner. Saves 83 calories.
Try this plan for the next few weeks and let me know if it works. You should lose at least one pound each week.